Athletes in Venture (And Why So Few Are Females)

Athletes have started to think differently over the past few years.

Not long ago, anytime you wanted to use an athlete for something you had to pay them cash.

But now players are thinking less about cash and more about the “right” opportunities and partnerships.

I do believe NIL helped with this mindset shift…

Long-Term Capital > Short-Term Cash

Let’s Dive In 👇

Athlete Dynamic We’re Seeing

Drake said it best:

“Damn, I swear sports and music are so synonymous. Cause we want to be them, and they want to be us.”

drake and steph curry

But now there’s a shift to something different…

Creators & athletes want to be founders & investors — while founders & investors want to be creators & influencers.

And it makes sense when you think about it…

  • Athletes want to productize their fame
  • Founders want the distribution channel that fame enables

Creators & athletes want to be taken seriously as entrepreneurs/investors.

Founders & Investors want to be “seen” because they think creators & athletes are “cooler” than them.

And that has led to this…

Athletes in Venture

Athletes with their own venture capital or PE firms:

  • Steve Nash (Bullish) – early stage consumer investment firm focusing on industry calcification, cultural trends, and technological momentum
  • Lionel Messi (Play Time) – venture vehicle targeting sports and technology companies
  • Steve Young (HGGC) – middle market PE firm
  • Paul Rabil (Rabil Ventures) – provides capital to companies in sports, media, financial services, real estate, and tech
  • Kevin Durant (35 Ventures) – invests in sports and tech among other categories
  • Matt de Boer (Athletic Ventures) – a syndicate of former and current pro athletes looking to partner with high-growth tech and consumer companies
  • Lebron James (LRMR Ventures) – family office for investments and current portfolio
  • Aaron Rodgers (Rx3 Growth Partners) – invests in culturally relevant trends across the consumer industry
  • Ryan Nece (Next Play Capital) – minority owned investment platform that partners with top tech companies.
  • Joe Montana (Liquid 2 Ventures) – early stage investment fund based in the Bay Area
  • Serena Williams (Serena Ventures) – prides itself on inclusivity in companies invested in
Serena Ventures raises $111M fund for investing in women
Serena Ventures (the only fund with a female athlete as a GP)
  • Ronnie Lott (8 VC) – looking to partner in the technology space
  • Steph Curry (Penny Jar Capital) – early stage VC firm investing in industry-defining tech companies
  • Ryan Mundy (Techlete Ventures) – an alternative asset management company that invests in VC, PE, and digital asset opportunities
  • Lance Armstrong (Next Ventures) – invests in health, wellness, and tech
  • Isaiah Kacyvenski (Will Ventures) – invests in high growth + impact sports/fitness companies
  • Harrison Barnes (Barnes and Co) – invests in financial services as well as B2B financial technologies
  • Chris Smalling (For Good) – venture platform where they invest in early-stage planet-friendly businesses
  • Josh Childress (LandSpire Group) – real estate fund that also invests in companies through their partner TPG Next
  • Andre Iguodala (Mastry Ventures) – a firm that specializes in the tech space
  • Eli Manning (Brand Velocity Group) – private equity firm focused on accelerating businesses
  • Jimmer Fredette (Tandem Ventures) – invest in the next generation of top-tier founders
  • Gerard Piqué (Cosmos) – a global portfolio of high-quality sports, media, and entertainment companies
  • Kyrie Irving (KAI 11 + Lockstep Ventures) – invests in underserved areas hoping to promote growth and strengthen communities
  • Rory McIlroy (Symphony Ventures) – venture firm investing in sports and tech
  • Thaddeus Young (Reform Ventures) – firm invests in companies focusing on healthcare, tech, media, software, and more
  • Steven Adams (TāneMahuta Capital) – investment office focused on sustainability and social impact startups
  • Michael Redd (TwentyTwo Ventures) – investment platform for small businesses and startups
  • Shikhar Dhawan (Da One Global Ventures) – multi-stage fund investing across sports
  • Magic Johnson (Magic Johnson Enterprises) – focuses on ethnically diverse and underserved urban communities

10 years ago, this list was a fraction of what it is today.

5 years from now, this list will be even larger.

You can learn more about these funds on my website: (filter for “Athlete VCs”)

Women Athlete Funds

Serena Williams is a lone wolf in the GP venture space for female athletes.

However, there are a lot of female athletes who are LPs in venture funds (or making angel investments on their own).

*View female athlete investors on my website here: (filter for “female”)

female athlete investors

Additionally, a bunch of female athletes are building cool companies in sports:

  • Naomi Osaka founded her own sports agency, Evolve.
  • Former Olympic hockey player Angela Ruggiero, started a technology-powered market research firm, Sports Innovation Lab.
  • Tracy Deforge is building The Player’s Impact, which is a collective of athletes making investments together.
  • Alex Morgan, Sue Bird, Simone Manuel, and Chloe Kim co-founded Togethxr, a media and commerce company to elevate women’s voices in 2022.
  • Former professional soccer player Haley Rosen, founded Just Women’s Sports, a media outlet for female athletes.
  • Allyson Felix launched Saysh, a women’s lifestyle brand that is designed to cater to the needs of female athletes shortly after retiring from track and field.
  • And many others as well…

Why so Few Female Athlete Funds?

Many female athletes certainly have the notoriety, but not as much capital to deploy.

For example, Patrick Mahomes is making over $75M a year — it’s easy for him to take $10M and deploy a fund.

He can then bring on experienced investment partners and raise additional capital from other people’s money.

It’s much harder for female athletes only making $1M/year.

This is the pay gap…

There are a few female athletes doing quite well (although most of their money comes from endorsements, not sports):

Highest Paid Female Athletes 2022:

  1. Naomi Osaka, Tennis – $51.1M
  2. Serena Williams, Tennis – $41.3M
  3. Eileen Gu, Freestyle Skiing – $20.1M
  4. Emma Raducanu, Tennis – $18.7M
  5. Iga Swiatek, Tennis – $14.9M
  6. Venus Williams, Tennis – $12.1M
  7. Coco Gauff, Tennis – $11.1M
  8. Simone Biles, Gymnastics – $10M
  9. Jessica Pegula, Tennis – $7.6M
  10. Minjee Lee, Golf – $7.3M

As you can see, all of these female athletes come from “individual” sports.

The Highest-Paid Female Athletes Score A Record $167 Million

Whether you think female athletes should be paid more or not is irrelevant to the question we began with — “why are so female athletes running their own funds?”.

The simple answer is:

  • 99% of them don’t make enough money
  • finance/venture is mostly a men’s world
  • many female athletes would rather start their own companies

It will be interesting to see how this plays out over time and where women’s sports is headed.

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